Why did it take me so long to apply for funding?

Dear reader,

Welcome to what seems to be the umpth attempt to (consistently) write about my journey as filmmaker/artist. WARNING. I have been told that I write like a person who has woken up in the middle of the night to blurb some notes. Forgive me if this still is the case. Please consider this blog on my website a mere act of sharing some thoughts, questions and processes I am undergoing during the development of my professional career. Of course, the hope is that if I keep writing “blurbs’ I might eventually get a bit better at it.

This particular reflection on paper is a result of finally taking the leap to send in an application for funding. And Yes. Thank you, Universe. I am very excited to have received it. But the journey to that first “official application” was not easy. With this first blog post I would like to write a little about my previous attempts to apply for funding and talk about the grant I recently received through Cultuurparticipatie of Urban Art Talent.

Despite it all, I think I am finally at the place to feel comfortable enough to voice myself in various ways and not feel too ashamed if it might not be as polished, correct or “finished” as the critic in me thinks it should be. I am on to something that I feel is worth exploring both visually and in written form.

I hope that through writing I will be able to engage with and reach out to other individuals that can take something out of what I have learned and shared here. I have understood that applications from the Dutch Caribbean for funds in the Netherlands are almost not received, but I truly encourage more artists to make use of this chance and start applying while the opportunity is available. Especially the ones living on the BES islands since they have even more opportunities to apply for funding.

Audience Award Best Student film @ Africa in the Picture (2012)

Part of why it took me this long to start documenting my process and introspection with words is my relationship with reading and writing, it has always been a work in progress. Back in the day I did not like to read, now I like to read but I often fall asleep and would categorize myself as a slow reader. With writing, the same thing, I never liked to write and when it gained my interest and I made any attempt, rivers of insecurities would arise within me. When receiving this grant, I made a promise (to myself) to just make, experiment and express, without limitations and despite insecurities.

Despite it all, I think I am finally at the place to feel comfortable enough to voice myself in various ways and not feel too ashamed if it might not be as polished, correct or “finished” as the critic in me thinks it should be. I am on to something that I feel is worth exploring both visually and in written form.

I hope that through writing I will be able to engage with and reach out to other individuals that can take something out of what I have learned and shared here. I have understood that applications from the Dutch Caribbean for funds in the Netherlands are almost not received, but I truly encourage more artists to make use of this chance and start applying while the opportunity is available. Especially the ones living on the BES islands since they have even more opportunities to apply for funding.

 

Behind the scene of Yamada

Let’s start with an elephant called FEAR

Honestly, FEAR is THE #1 REASON why it took me 5 years after completing my MA in Artistic Research to have applied for an artist fund. Some notes to consider:

I was born and raised on Curacao

Like my parents, I too would go to Holland to study

Moved to study Film in the Netherlands

Because “we” are also Dutch it would seem an easy continuation, but it wasn’t

It was cold, ICE COLD

I was made an allochtoon

I wanted to stay close to home

Meaning my work would be often about home

Had to be stubborn enough to go against advices of professors

But being far made me understand that I knew nothing of home

I knew nothing 

Heard about a man called Fanon and saw Ava & Gabriel at 26

Got angry at the education system that ill-equip us in the Dutch Caribbean

Had to get over that during my Master’s

Had many sessions of sitting, looking and listening to lectures feeling I knew nothing

Spend many seasons feeling incapable

But got up each day and tried something

Or tried what I would call “a whatever”

Gave credit, or a lot of credit to my intuition

I must have had courage as well, come to think of it

And will power

I love improvisation, that too helped

And I have been often stopped with;

“You need to let others look at your writing”

“Your writing in Dutch, or any language for that matter, is inconsistent”

“I don’t know” became my best friend

I took it everywhere I went

I often still do

My dushi was my rock and I finished my Master’s

Beyond my father’s expectation

Suddenly I became afraid to take test

I get panic attacks, and get black outs

I also get black outs at the question: “What do you do?”

“What is your work about?”

And every single time, I would like to answer

Nothing, and just walk away

I am not ungrateful

But afraid, horrified

The older I get the more scared of failing

At everything I do

So I crawl like a baby every day

Some days I walk

Some I cry

Because every day I am afraid 

 

 

Premiere Documentary 2014 Mighty Lords Kings and Queens funded by Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds Caribisch Gebied (2015)

Let’s just see how far I get without

For a long time, I believed that I could create (films) without applying for funding. I have created films with little to no funding. I started Uniarte, an artist organization with no funding (another aspect of what I do). However, in time, I have come to realize that without the proper resources you can only get so far. I simply need the gear, I need the crew and cast, but most of all, I need time. Time is the most essential. And all these elements that are necessary to create “good” work do require some financial resources. A part of me would like to “avoid” strict commercial work, but we all need to survive. I am very grateful to have received the opportunity from the Urban Arts fund to pursue my artistic development while having a part time relief of the “regular freelance artist hustle”. 

To tell the tale of my funding journey I must start with Prins Bernhard Fund Caribisch Gebied. I had finished my first feature documentary “Su Solo Y Playanan” as my Bachelor’s final project and my father encouraged me to apply so I can at least have a proper screening of the film on the island. We sat on the couch in the living room where he showed me how to write the letter and to create a budget that would indicate what I need. Thanks to that I was able to have a local premiere in what was Teatro Luna Blou. The support and guidance that our parents and the ones around us can provide is extremely important. Never underestimate what a little encouragement can do.

Just after graduation, I really wanted to apply to this well-known “stipendium” grant, now called “werkbijdrage jongtalent”, from the Mondriaan Fund. I turned to an older artist, who once applied and received funding, to look at my portfolio. I was told that they do not approve applications of artist that don’t have a strong portfolio. It took me a few years to get over that “advice” and muster up the courage to apply after all. When I did finally take the leap, the application was rejected because of a late send in. I was one day too late, so they could not consider it. It was such a rollercoaster of emotions to even send it in that I just decided that I would not apply for funding anymore. I convinced myself that by taking baby steps and learning on my own pace and rhythm, it would get me ready enough to produce the kind of work I would want.

Luckily, after that I was asked by a local producer on Curacao, Michel Drenthe (from Caribbean Filmcom) that had seen my first feature documentary to direct a film he wanted to produce. He trusted that I had an eye to translate his vision and that I would do a good job at it.  I was also commissioned to make a work, Kamaradoo, for an SMBA exhibition. At that time, these projects were a re-assurance that I could get somewhere through other ways (than applying for a fund without a “strong portfolio”). So far, I have had the freedom to develop stories and projects in the way I thought was best. Thanks to that trust and space people gave me I was able to believe more in myself. Prins Bernard Cultuurfonds Caribisch gebied also continued to contribute to the productions I was part of. I am happy I decided to move back to Curacao and since then I have directed 5 documentaries, a short film, 2 video installations, and some other video reports for nonprofit organizations.  

For me to have to apply beforehand to get approval for something I want to do is just very uncomfortable, it paralyzes me. Especially since I am looking to still find my style. And it is exactly because I skipped that road for a while that I have been able to build my confidence. I have now arrived at a place where I understand that I have “signature” elements that I am applying to my work and want to develop further. I believe that I have a drive and skill that will exist and life beyond rejections or criticism.

So what’s up with this grant

With the Urban Arts Talent 2018-2020 subsidy the Fund wants to stimulate and support development programs for Urban Arts talents. The talented individual can develop as a maker by realizing one or more end products under the guidance of professionals. Talent is central to the scheme. The Fund wants to offer Urban Arts talents the opportunity to go a step further with good guidance.

This grant allows me the freedom and time to ask myself some essential questions, which I hope to find answers to with the help of mentors who will guide me through this process. I will explore matters such as: “how can I develop a (standard) method/approach for creating work?”, “how can I improve the way I do research?”, “how can I professionalize myself further?”, “how can I develop or find my own style?”, “what are the (multiple) ways in which I would like to communicate my practice?”. At the end of 2019 I will give an artist talk where I will present the result of this period of exploration. 

Some humble words of advice for any artist from the Caribbean. If you are doubting about applying for a grant or any sort of funding, do take your time to think about it and prepare well. But definitely consider it fully before letting insecurities or fear get in the way of you trying. Even if it makes you uncomfortable, (the “best” artists also) ask for help. Don’t let anyone discourage you!

Behind the scene of Yamada Pic by Tittle Tattle
Producer Michel Drenthe and Me
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